If your new year’s resolution is to quit smoking, you’re in good company. It’s a popular goal and many, many people succeed. There are more former smokers in the United States – nearly 50 million – than current smokers. Planning ahead can help make your healthy resolution a reality.
Knowing the facts about smoking can make you more determined to stop smoking this year.
• Hundreds are toxic, and about 70 cause cancer.
• Smoking causes immediate damage to the body.
• Tobacco use causes an estimated 443,000 deaths each year. It kills more people every year than human immunodeficiency virus, illegal drugs, alcohol abuse, car crashes, suicides and murders combined.
• For every person who dies from a tobacco-related disease, another 20 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.
People who stop smoking can greatly reduce their risk for disease and early death. The younger you are when you quit, the better your chances of avoiding health problems.
Save your breath
Smoking causes most cases of the serious lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The disease makes it harder and harder to breathe. The disease can make people too sick to work and leads to an early death. When you quit smoking, you can:
• Reduce your coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
• Reduce your risk of developing COPD
• Slow the weakening of your lungs, if you already have some damage
When you quit smoking, you also help protect your children, family, and friends from exposure to secondhand smoke. It can cause immediate harm to those who breathe it.
No one said quitting would be easy
Quitting smoking can be challenging. Most people make multiple attempts. That’s because nicotine is a very addictive drug. But don’t give up trying just because you haven’t succeeded in the past.
Think about your past attempts to quit – what worked and what didn’t. If one method didn’t work, don’t hesitate to try another method. You can learn something new every time you try. This time might be the time you quit for good.
Choose the best quit method for you
Many effective quit methods are available. The science-based strategies listed below have worked for many people:
Prepare ahead and change your routines
• Prepare for the day you plan to quit. Think about your environment and what you need to change. Get rid of all tobacco products (and other items such as ashtrays) in your home, car, and where you work.
• Don’t let people smoke around you. Ask them not to use tobacco near you or leave cigarettes and other tobacco products where you can see them.
When you first try to quit, change your routine. Use a different route to work. Eat breakfast in a different place. Do something to reduce your stress. Try to distract yourself when you feel an urge to smoke or use tobacco. Talk to someone, go for a walk, exercise, or read a book. Plan something enjoyable to do every day.
Let others help you
Get support from other people. There are many ways to do this. For example, tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you are going to quit and that you want their support. Studies have shown that you have a better chance of being successful if you have help.
Consider signing up for individual, group, or telephone counseling. Counseling doubles your chances for success. Counseling can help you identify and overcome situations that trigger the urge to smoke. Free programs are available at local hospitals and health centers. Call your local health department for information about programs in your area. Telephone counseling is also available free of charge across the United States at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
Talk to your doctor or health care provider
Talk to your health care provider (e.g., doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, psychologist, or smoking cessation coach or counselor), especially if you want to consider using medications. Medications can help you stop smoking and lessen the urge to smoke.
Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies can help. These are medications that contain nicotine to help reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you can focus on changing the behavior and habits that trigger your urge to smoke. Some NRTs are available without a doctor’s prescription, including nicotine lozenges, nicotine gum and nicotine patches.
You also can get a prescription from your doctor for NRTS, such as nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays, which act much like the over-the-counter NRTs.
Other prescription medications – like bupropion SR and varenicline tartrate – do not contain nicotine and work in different ways to help reduce your urge to smoke. These medications are FDA-approved and proven to be effective in helping smokers to quit.
Regardless of how you decide to quit – whether you use medicines, counseling, or simply stop smoking on your own – it’s most important to commit to quit, make a plan, and stick with it.